When researchers surveyed school districts across the nation, they found a surprising diversity of holiday vacation spans. For Thanksgiving, some districts offered their students and teachers as little as three days off; others had breaks that lasted more than a week. Some winter breaks were a week long. Others lasted nearly three weeks.
No matter how you do holiday breaks, however, one thing is certain: A lot of students will be “thrown off their game.” And for opportunity youth, in particular, that can deal a devastating blow to graduation goals.
Routines are vital for classroom management, school operation, and student success. So how do you ensure that vacations don’t interfere with student progress?
1. The Morning Check-in Plan
Offer assignment credit, prizes, or recognition to students who journal about their holiday break experiences — with one important catch: The journal submissions must be emailed within an hour of the time that school would usually begin.
This helps encourage students to keep a wake-up schedule that doesn’t deviate too much from their normal routine.
Will some of them just do the assignment and go back to bed? You can bet on it. But the act of rising and working, even for a little bit, will engage those all-important circadian rhythms, making it a lot easier to return to the school schedule when the break is over.
2. Winter Service Days
In districts where students are required to complete community service hours for graduation, students are often found scrambling during spring break to “get their hours in.”
One way to alleviate the annual springtime rush and give students a chance to stay on schedule during the holidays, is to offer volunteer opportunities during the breaks.
These opportunities can be facilitated at a school location or arranged with community organizations, including non-profits, hospitals, senior living facilities, and veteran centers. The important thing is that these opportunities are offered in the mornings — so that students who engage in these activities maintain a semblance of the routine they’ve developed during the regular school schedule.
3. Holiday Credit Recovery
Holiday breaks are a great time for students who have fallen behind on credit attainment to make up some ground with online coursework.
This strategy offers a two-fold benefit, because not only does it help students build progress toward earning original credit, but it also targets the students who are most likely to struggle, and helps them get back on track after time off of school. These are students who are already falling behind, for whatever reason.
Does it seem like a few short weeks aren’t enough time to earn credit? Remember that during the regular school schedule students are usually juggling six or more classes at a time. A break offers the opportunity to hyperfocus on just one or two courses at a time, and in the span of two weeks — the average time students are away from their full class schedule for their Thanksgiving and winter break — they can make significant progress on those classes.
The greatest gift to an at-risk learner
There are countless creative ways to help opportunity youth maintain some semblance of their normal routine during holiday breaks. The most important thing is to simply start somewhere — and to make sure that your students recognize a little holiday work not as a punishment but a gift.
‘tis the season for gifts, after all.
If you are looking for alternative options to provide to your students to include original credit, course expansion, and dropout recovery Graduation Alliance can help. We partner with you to create alternative pathways for individuals who need flexibility and support to earn a diploma. To learn more about our services and to contact us, simply click here.